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Add negative keywords to your campaign

Negative keywords can help you reach the most interested customers, reduce your costs, and increase your return on investment (ROI). When you add terms as negative keywords (available for "Search Network only," and "Search Network with Display Select") or as keyword exclusions (for "Display Network only" campaigns), your ad won't show to people searching for those terms or visiting sites that contain those terms.

With negative keywords, you can:

  • Prevent your ad from showing to people searching for or visiting websites about things you don't offer.
  • Show your ads to people who are more likely to click them.
  • Reduce costs by excluding keywords where you might be spending money but not getting a return.

When you select negative keywords, you'll want to choose search terms that are similar to your keywords, but signal that people are looking for a different product.

Example

Let's say you're an optometrist who sells glasses. You'd want to prevent your ad from showing to someone searching for or visiting webpages that contain terms like "wine glasses" and "drinking glasses," since that person isn't likely to buy a pair of your eyeglasses.

Guided tour: Add negative keywords


Click the "Guide me" button below to go to your account and be guided through each step. Guide me

Add negative keywords (“Search Network only” or "Search Network with Display Select")
  1. Sign in to your AdWords account.
  2. Click the Keywords tab.
  3. Click the Negative keywords tab.
  4. You'll see two tables: "Ad group level" and "Campaign level." Ad group and Campaign level
  5. Add negative keywords at the ad group or campaign level by clicking the +Keywords button above either table. Use the drop-down to select the ad group or campaign that you'd like to add negative keywords to, then add one negative keyword per line in the text field.
    • To add broad-matched negative keywords, you'll need to add the plural version of these keywords in addition to the singular version, such as "wine" and "wines."
    • To add a negative phrase-matched keyword, surround the term with quotation marks.
    • To add a negative exact-matched keyword, surround the term with brackets.

Keep in mind

Make sure that your negative keywords don't overlap with your regular keywords, because this will cause your ad not to show.

  1. Click Save.
Edit, remove, or download negative keywords ("Search Network only" or "Search Network with Display Select")

Once you add negative keywords to your ad groups and campaigns, you can edit, remove, or download them.

  1. Click the Keywords tab.
  2. Click the Negative keywords tab.
  3. You'll see two tables: "Ad group level" and "Campaign level." Ad group and Campaign level

Edit your negative keywords:

  1. Check the boxes next to the negative keywords you'd like to edit.
  2. Click the Edit drop-down in the "Ad group level" or "Campaign level" table, then select "Change keyword text...". Make your changes to each individual negative keyword in the boxes that appear.
    • (Optional) To change your negative keyword's match type, use the drop-down menu to select a new match type.
  3. Click Save.

Remove your negative keywords:

  1. Check the boxes next to the negative keywords you'd like to remove.
  2. Click the Edit drop-down in the "Ad group level" or "Campaign level" table, then select "Remove keywords." 

Download your negative keywords:

  1. Check the boxes next to the negative keywords you'd like to download.
  2. Click the download button Download icon in the "Ad group level" or "Campaign level" table.
  3. You'll see a "Download and schedule report" section. Enter a name for your report in the "Report name" box. Select a format for your file from the "Format" drop-down menu.
  4. Click Create.
Exclude keywords ("Display Network only" campaigns)

You can limit the visibility of your ads on the Google Display Network by excluding keywords. When you exclude keywords from your campaign or ad group, AdWords avoids showing your ads on Display Network sites that contain those terms.

Your negative keywords don’t have to be comprehensive. For example, to prevent ads from showing on placements about wine glasses, adding the negative keyword -wine should do the trick. An exception to this is compound keywords, like “baby spinach.” If you were to just use the negative keyword –baby, your ad might still appear on pages that contain the term “baby spinach” because the meaning changes when “baby” and “spinach” are combined.

If you exclude keywords from an ad group with placements, your ads will be less likely to appear on placements about the excluded keywords that you've selected. However, excluded keywords aren't as precise on the Display Network as they are on search, so your ad may still occasionally appear on pages containing these terms depending on the other keywords in your ad group.

Example

Let's say you select five different shopping websites as placements, then add the negative keyword -wine to the ad group. Your ad may appear on any of the five websites, but it will be less likely to appear on pages of those websites that are about wine glasses.

Here's how to exclude keywords:

  1. Sign in to your AdWords account.
  2. Under your Campaigns tab, go to your Display Network tab and click + Targeting which is located above the graph.
  3. Select an ad group.
  4. Click either the “Add ad group exclusions” or “Add campaign exclusions” drop-down menu and select “Display keywords.”
  5. Add your keywords, one per line. Note: Make sure that your excluded keywords don't overlap with your regular keywords, because this will cause your ad not to show.
  6. Click Close and then Save.

Tip

Try excluding sites or categories to limit the visibility of your ads.

Get negative keyword ideas

You can run a search terms report to get negative keyword ideas. The search terms report will show you every search that resulted in your ad being triggered and clicked.

Run a search terms report:

  1. Sign in to your AdWords account.
  2. Click the Keywords tab.
  3. Select the checkboxes next to the keywords that you'd like to run a search terms report for, then click the Search terms button above the table. 
  4. You'll be taken to the Search terms tab, which shows the details for your selected keywords. To see details for all of the keywords in your report, click the "Show all" link. See search terms
  5. Check the boxes next to the keywords that you'd like to add as negative keywords, then click the Add as negative keyword button.

    Note

    Make sure that your negative keywords don't overlap with your regular keywords, because this will cause your ad not to show.

  6. You can choose to add the negative keywords at the ad group level, or at the campaign level.
  7. Click Save.

Keep in mind

  • Choose your negative keywords carefully. If you use too many negative keywords, then your ads might reach fewer customers.
  • Your ads still might show on searches and pages that contain variations of the terms that you select as negative keywords. Your ads might still show on searches that contain only one of your negative keyword terms if your keyword terms are more than one word. Let's say you add the negative keyword "wine bottle." Your ad might still show for searches and pages that contain "stemless wine glasses," "red wine," or "glass bottle." However, your ad wouldn't show for searches on "red wine bottle" or "wine bottle opener."
  • We still might show your ad when someone searches for a phrase that's longer than 10 words and your negative keyword follows that 10th word. Let's say your negative keyword is "discount." Your ad can show when someone searches for "nice clean hotel rooms in Los Angeles close to beach discount" because your negative keyword is the 11th word in the phrase. On the other hand, we won't show your ad when someone searches for "nice clean hotel rooms in Los Angeles beach views discount" because your negative keyword is the 10th word in the phrase.

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